Defining Brand Personality with Help from Legally Blonde’s Elle Woods


Great brands stand for something. They project a strong personality.

What personality do you aspire to put forth for your brand?

Can you easily answer that question? If not, Industribrand CEO and 40-year marketing and advertising veteran Bob Lamons has a way for you to begin crafting your answer.

legally-blondeBefore I get to his counsel though, bear with me and read through the following excerpt from the script of the 2001 comedy film Legally Blonde. In this flick, Reese Witherspoon is Elle Woods, a blonde sorority queen who’s out to prove she belongs at Harvard Law School.

Elle sits at the outdoor table, ignoring her slice of pizza, as she looks around for Warner. Not finding him, she turns her attention to the Group Leader, a BURNED OUT 2L (second-year law student) in a red t-shirt.

BURNED OUT 2L: “Okay. Welcome to law school. This is the part where we go around in a circle and everyone says a little bit about themselves. Let’s start with you.”

He gestures at a guy with glasses, DORKY DAVID.

DORKY DAVID: “I have a Masters in Russian Literature, a PhD in Biochemistry, and for the last eighteen months, I’ve been de-worming orphans in Somalia.”

BURNED OUT 2L: “Awesome. How about you, Enid?”

ENID, a militant feminista, looks up.

ENID: “PhD from Berkeley in Women’s Studies—emphasis in the History of Combat. And last year, I led the march for Lesbians against Drunk Driving.”

BURNED OUT 2L: “Killer.”

He looks at an intense guy in his late twenties, IVAN.

INTENSE IVAN: “I’ve got an MBA from Wharton, worked on Wall Street for four years, mushed in three ididarods and I’ve figured out how to crash the stock market in Sri Lanka if any of you want to get together later.”

BURNED OUT 2L: “Sweet. What about you?”

He looks at Elle. She sits up straight.

ELLE: “Hi! I’m Elle Woods and this is Bruiser Woods and we’re both gemini vegetarian. I have a Bachelors degree from USC, where I was Sigma Chi Sweetheart and president of Delta Gamma, and last year—I was Homecoming Queen.”

ELLE: “Oh! (dramatically) Two weeks ago, I saw Cameron Diaz at Fred Segal – and talked her out of buying a truly heinous angora sweater! Whoever said that orange is the new pink is seriously disturbed.”

She looks around, pleased. Enid snickers as the rest of the group stares at Elle, dumbfounded.

So, how is all of this relevant to our discussion? Can we cull any lessons on brand personality from the scene above?

You bet we can.

What do we see happening? Each student introduces himself or herself. We get a sense of what they stand for. We get a sense of what they’re all about. We get a sense of their personality, of what matters to them.

That’s exactly what great brands do—they project personality.

Lamons says to get into the mindset of crafting our desired brand image we should think about how we would introduce our brand as a good friend to someone else.

And when you introduce a good friend or yourself, he says, you don’t dump everything out on the table. Instead, you narrow it down and focus on the key information, the most important traits.

It’s the same in branding, isn’t it? You can’t stand for everything, and nor would you ever want to. But you want to stand for something specific, something memorable. You want to stand for what matters most. And by doing so, you distinguish yourself and carve out a position that’s uniquely yours.

And if you’re Elle Woods, then you’re not scared to be you. You don’t pretend to be someone you aren’t. You stand for who you really are, no matter how badly you may want to present yourself differently to fit in and connect.

If you must be anything, be authentic to who you really are.

Personifying a brand, of course, to flesh out its character isn’t anything new.

What are some other ways to think about and define a brand’s personality?

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8 responses to “Defining Brand Personality with Help from Legally Blonde’s Elle Woods

  1. Bruiser Woods

    Forgot about me.

    It’s: “Hi. I’m Elle Woods and this is Bruiser Woods and we’re both gemini vegetarian…”

    -Bruiser

    • Bruiser, my sincere apologies. Hope I didn’t ruin your perfect day! Thanks for the catch, seriously. Sometimes the script doesn’t match up with the finished film. I’ll make that edit.

  2. David’s observations are right on the money. In my book, The Case For B2B Branding, I talk a lot about the importance of associating an expectation with your brand. When people see or hear your brand name, what do they expect? If they don’t have a clearly articulated expectation, that’s a branding problem. On the other hand, if you ask 50 people and get 50 different expecations, that’s also a branding problem. Marketers should strive to narrow their branding strategy down to a single attribute that can start the process of focusing customer expectations so they can ultimately turn to a colleague and say why they prefer your brand. You can’t be the mission statement. Sorry.

    Bob Lamons, CEO
    Industribrand
    Houston

    • Bob, thank you for contributing to the discussion.

      And I’m glad you brought up the notion of expectations. In a cluttered world of brands, in a sea of sameness, it’s harder than ever to differentiate from the competition and remain profitable.

      It’s simply vital to understand what buyers truly expect of you AND clearly communicate what you’re about and what you can deliver.

      This is particularly important given that expectations keep rising, even in a battered and down-and-out economy. Adaptation is critical, and so is constant reinforcement of what you stand for.

      • The Holy Grail of branding is when a customer turns to a colleague and says, “I like XYZ because …” and the “because” is a paraphrasing of your brand promise. It doesn’t happen very much, but when it does, it’s powerful.

  3. Nice case study! It always amazes me, how many brands try putting up a false front for the public.

    If you’re interested in an example of authentic brand personality, I just did a piece on Columbia Sportswear. Gert Boyle’s the real deal… the polar opposite of Resse Witherspoon. BrandInsightBlog.com

  4. Pingback: Hitch Imparts Important Brand Principle: Be Real « On Brands

  5. You got 2 quotes wrong. It’s

    “AARON Mitchell, graduated top of my class at Princeton and I have an IQ of 187. And it’s been suggested that Steven Hawking stole his brief history of time from my fourth grade paper.”

    Then, “Cool. And you? (to Elle)”

    “Me? (Elle smiling)”

    “Yeah”

    “Hi, I’m Elle Woods, and this is Bruiser Woods. And we’re both gemini vegitarians. I have a Bachelor’s degree in Fashion Merchandising from CULA, and I was a Zeta Lamb De Nu Sweet Heart, president of my sorrority Delta Nu, and last year, I was homecoming queen.” (Thankfully the most famous part of that quote is correct.)

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